Do I really need gold plated HDMI leads?

Do I really need gold plated HDMI leads?

Why, whenever I buy new audio/visual equipment do the salesmen always ask me whether I want gold plated cables to match, at only 10% of the cost of the equipment I am buying?

I go into a shop with an exact idea of the connections I want, resolution, size, everything. They still try to convince me they know more than me about what my exact needs are – “Sir are you sure you need HDMI in on your surround sound bluray player? I think you mean HDMI out”.

Guess what? I do need HDMI in, I have a HDMI HD satellite box that I wish to pipe through my surround sound.

“But sir, you can do that with a TOSLINK fibre optic cable, which we have in stock for the low price of £35, if you use a HDMI cable it costs £59.99 with – wait for it – gold plated connectors. These are what all the high end studios use and they know their equipment and the gold plating makes a massive difference to both picture and sound quality.”

You, my learned little friend straight from Acnetown, know nothing. Allow me, some random bloke with a pile of money in his hand, to school you in the fine art of digital data transfer.

Back in the good old days of analogue audio (remember that – scratchy LPs, tinny cassettes) it never made a difference. A bad connection was a bad connection. Squeeze the end of the RCA (phono) plug with a pair of pliers, try plugging it in again. If that didn’t work it invariably meant you had pulled on the wire and broke the connection. Throw it away and get a new one from the pound shop (it was 50p stores back then). Problem solved. The question whether the plug had been dipped in gold was not germane to the issue. All the gold plating in the world won’t stop your baby daughter pulling on a dangling wire.

On that note, strain relief plugs don’t work either. Just a heads up. If you want strain relief, tie a loop in the end _O____ with some slack in it. When you pull it, the loop closes a little which you can feel when you pull. Slacken it off every now and again to ensure it is doing its job. You can give that a fair yank as there is slack in the cable. Plug something in without that loop, give the cable a yank and watch your TV fly off the stand. Another handy tip by Greg.

Back to the point of the post – “King of Acnetown, stop dumbing me down”.
Digital data has a wonderful characteristic that negates the use of high end (read expensive and great for his bonuses) cables that can be summed up in a 6 word sentence:
it either works or it doesn’t.

It won’t sometimes work and cause breakup of your picture every now and again. If it works it keeps working – digital information is made up of high and low voltages. If the transmitter sends a 1 (high), then the receiver will see a 1.

If however the cable is damaged it won’t sometimes see information and not other times unless you are playing with the cable and make the broken ends of the wire touch, in which case it is simply time to buy a new cable.

If the digital signal can’t get through, you won’t see sparklies, dropouts or broken frames. That’s something completely different in either your transmitter or receiver.

If your satellite receiver picture breaks up, don’t think “it must be the cable”, instead look at your dish and the sky. Snow, rain, wind, trees, birds all cause problems with satellite reception. Your satellite receiver will try its best to fix any breaks but it does not know exactly what is being transmitted until it safely arrives so it can only do “best guess” which causes breakup of your picture. Nothing to do with the £1 HDMI cable you got from eBay.

With digital transfer, a cable is a cable. The box doesn’t care if the cable is made from bent paper clips as long as there is a path for the data to travel.

And as for the other buzzwords “oxygen free”.. the only time oxygen will affect a lead carrying digital information is if someone cuts through it. There I said it.

Save your money. Get the cheapest you can. Heck, buy a couple at the same time in case your aforementioned daughter rips one out. You’ll probably get a discount.

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